The US has less than a twentieth of the world's population, but we own a third of the world's cars. Increasing their fuel efficiency will be a key part of curbing greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution. National fuel efficiency standards help of course, but Mass, RI, and other states are going further by encouraging ownership of electric vehicles (EV) including plug-in hybrids and all-electric models. The fuel efficiency of an all-electric model -- based on how much petroleum is used to generate the electricity -- is typically much better than a hybrid, and averages 83 mpg for New England. The fuel efficiency for EVs has improved a lot over the three years since popular models like the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf were introduced.
Nationwide EV sales are around a quarter million, and up to 20 models are available in some parts of the US. Though still a small percentage of new vehicle sales, Mass had about 4500 EVs registered by the end of 2014. Infrastructure has expanded to include 600 public charging stations across the state, and Chelmsford has stations at Town Hall, Adams Library, and Vinal Square. To encourage "early adopters" of the EV technology, the state started a program in June 2014 offering rebates of up to $2,500 for the purchase or lease of an EV; that's on top of the federal tax credit of $7,500.
The remaining funding for the Mass rebates may only last a few more months based on the response to date, so if you're thinking of getting an EV this may be a good time to do it. The funding was down to $568,000 as of last week, and rebates are available on a first-come first-served basis. Online tools for EV buyers include information and a cost calculator from the US Dept. of Energy, a database of available EV models from Plug In America, and a guide from the Sierra Club. For an EV owner's perspective (and a strong endorsement of the Chevy Volt) check out the blog from Larry Chretien on Mass Energy's site. The state also has some cool stats on what EVs are purchased and where: looks like so far there are 3 rebates to Chelmsford EV buyers!